Testing water ~ 25 reasons to test your tapwater

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Testing your water
25 reasons to test your tap water

Get to know and trust your water source: test it!
There are many contaminants in the tap water harmful to your
health that could come from your home's plumbing, fixtures or
appliances, and not just the municipal water source.

It's your right to drink clean, uncontaminated water. The only way
to ensure you have clean drinking water is to test it.

Testing water at home with the
First Alert drinking water test kit
is very easy. The kit, pictured immediate right, includes all the
testing materials you need to test for common water
contaminants, including bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrates and
nitrities, chlorine, and hardness. This kit also tests water pH,
which is important because if the water's pH is out of whack it
can corrode plumbing and contaminants like lead  or copper leach
lead into your water.

25 Reasons to Test your Water
Be water safe and test your water for lead, nitrates, arsenic, and
the like. Be sure to check for a wide range of bacteria, viruses,
and parasites, as even microorganisms that may contaminate the
tap water. Whatever you do, be sure to test your water. Below is
a list of 25 things you might find if you test your water...

#1: Acidity.
Why test your water for acidity? For starters, it's bad to drink
acidic water because it can cause you to absorb too much
mercury. Also, water that's acidic causes corrosion of pipes and
this in turn can cause copper, lead or zinc, to leach into your
drinking water. You want to a pH balance for optimum health.
Your goal is to avoid acidic water and attain alkaline water:

  • Acidic water (bad). Drinking acidic water can cause you to
    absorb too much copper, lead, mercury and zinc. Acidic water
    can have a negative effect on your health. In testing for
    acidity in water, you may find excessive hydrogen and this in
    turn causes the body to be acidic too. Copper, lead, mercury,
    zinc ~ it's all stuff you want to avoid in excess, but you
    won't know about it until you test for it.

  • Alkaline water (good). Drinking alkaline water is ideal
    because it can protect against too much mercury and it also
    helps the body absorb calcium and improve bone health,
    which is just the opposite of acidic water. Alkaline minerals
    added to water often include sodium, potassium, calcium and
    magnesium ~ they are all good in the correct proportions.
    Attaining alkaline water is the goal because it brings good
    things ~ it usually increases calcium absorption and reduces
    calcium loss for better bone health. In all truth, though, too
    much calcium is "hard water" and while it's not a health risk,
    it isn't good for your fixtures.

  • Who should test for acidity in water?
  • Anyone who has cancer will want to test the water pH.

#2: Arsenic.
Most people associate arsenic with rat poisoning and it's poison
for humans, too. Arsenic was once commonly used in pesticides
and paint pigment and this contaminant made its way back into
the water system. Arsenic may surface in water today as a result
of mining, ore smelting and other industrial uses.

Arsenic in water is extremely common and can cause circulatory
system disorders, organ damage and reproductive system
disorders. Highly toxic, arsenic also has links to diabetes and
cancers (bladder, kidney, lung, skin).

  • Who should test for arsenic in water? A
  • Anyone with well water should test for arsenic. Because
    arsenic occurs naturally in air, soil and water, arsenic is
    particularly a problem in well waters. If you have well water
    in New England you have an elevated risk of arsenic.
  • Anyone trying to conceive should also avoid.
  • Anyone concerned about diabetes and cancer should also
    test the water.

#3: Bacteria.
The presence of coliform bacteria in the water is an indicator of
pathogenic organisms that can cause disease. You can't smell or
taste bacterial contamination in water, so you'll need to test for
it. Bacteria is typically odorless, colorless, and tasteless and is
responsible for loads of health problems. There are many kinds of
bacteria that could be in your tap water:

  • campylobacter ~ Usually considered a foodborne illness,
    campylobacter can also occur in well water. It causes
    cramps, diarrhea, and fever. Sometimes it can lead to joint
    inflammation or Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • cholera ~ There are things you can do as a prepper about
    cholera.While rare in the United States today, cholera was
    quite common with pioneers who travelled along the Oregon
    Trail. Drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called
    Vibrio cholerae causes severe watery diarrhea, dehydrationg
    and death.
  • clostridium ~ Gram-positive bacteria, which causes diarrhea.
  • cryptosporidiosis ~ a bacteria that causes respiratory and
    gastrointestinal illness
  • E. coli
  • Legionnella bacteria
  • listeria ~ This bacteria that may cause confusion, fever stiff
    neck and a weakened immunity. The elderly and pregant are
    most vulnerable to a listeria infection.
  • Salmonella
  • shigella ~ This bacteria infects the intestines and causes a
    highly contagious diarrheal illness.
  • yersnia pestis ~ Gram negative bacterium that is the cause
    of the plague.

  • Who should test for bacteria.
  • Everyone! Bacteria can make you sick. Hepatitis can take
    years to detect.
  • If your home draws from private well water, you should do
    regular testing for bacteria once or twice a year.

#4: Cadmium (heavy metal).
Cadmium is a tap water poison! Cadmium gets into tap water
through old galvanized pipes as well as run off from paint and old
batteries and discharge from metal refineries.

Cadmium in the digestive track is something you'll want to avoid
for health reasons. It's a cancer-causing agent that can cause
severe kidney problems and bone softening. Kidney damage from
cadmium poisoning is irreversible. The largest releases of this
heavy metal from zinc, lead and copper smelting and refining
industries, are in Arizona and Utah.

  • Who should test for cadmium?
  • Anyone living in Arizona or Utah.
  • Anyone suffering from kidney health problems.
  • If your home draws from private well water, you should do
    regular testing at least once a year.

#5: Carbonates.
Carbonates are the natural carbonation of spring water ~ it's
carbon dioxide gas under pressure. It's important to test for high
levels of ions such as carbonates, bicarbonates, and hydroxide,
which can effect pH levels in your water:
  • carbonate ~ a limewater is used to test for the presence of
    carbonate ions
  • bicarbonates ~
  • calcium hydroxide ~

#6: Cesium.
Cesium is a radioactive contaminant ~ it's a radioactive isotope.
Reverse osmosis water treatment can remove radioactive
isotopes and so can a Seychelle Water filter.

Isotopes, like Cesium 137, are found in drinking water. Cesium in
water will explode in the correct proportions. It's the most
reactive alkali metal. Unfortunately, this is a radiological
contaminate that you may find Cesium in your tap water!

  • Who should test for cesium?
  • Anyone who lives near an active or inactive nuclear power
  • Preppers who live in Boise Idaho; Las Vegas Nevada; Nome
    and Dutch Harbor, Alaska; Honolulu, Kauai and Oahu,
    Hawaii; Anaheim, Riverside, San Francisco, and San
    Bernardino, California; Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida; and
    Salt Lake City, Utah, as isotopes of cesium were found in
    those cities.

#7: Chlorine (sodium hypochlorite ~ bleach).
Chlorine is a typical water treatment for sanitizing pools and
disinfecting drinking water. Chlorine has a distinct smell and
many people have a sensitivity to it.

While generally regarded as safe by the masses, preppers
included, chlorine and chlorine by-products can increase cancer
risk and cause bad taste and odor in water. Chlorine also
increases risk of allergies and asthma in kids.

You can boil water to free it from chlorine or leave it in a
container for 24 hours, but your best bet is filtering it. Try a
Berkey water filter!

  • Who should test for chlorine?
  • Anyone who is suffering from cancer.
  • Kids in the household who have asthma.

#8: Copper (trace element).
While you may think that copper is a heavy metal, it is actually a
trace element.
Copper is a useful element to preppers, but
excessive levels of copper in your water may cause
gastrointestinal distress (cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting,
as well as kidney disease and liver damage). Copper may also
pose a risk of Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and diabetes if
your body cannot process it.

  • Who should test for copper?
  • Anyone with a family history of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes
    or heart disease.
  • Homes with copper pipes. (Sulfates in your water of more
    than 250 ml may corrode copper plumbing.)

#9: Fluoride.
Is fluoride on tap in your house? Sodium fluoride is a neurotoxin
and a poison It's in the water only because of misguided wisdom
from the 1950s. Sodium fluoride is a poison. Talk to your dentist
about fluoride after you

After you
learn about water fluoridation dangers, you'll want to
talk to your dentist about it, but don't expect your dentist's office
to switch sides any time soon. Why don't dentists understand the
danger's of fluoride? They've been ingrained to believe it is good
for you.

#10: Hydrogen sulfide.
Water with a rotten egg smell may be contaminated with
hydrogen sulfide. The rotten egg smell is a consequence of sulfur
reducing bacteria, which thrive in low-oxygen environments.
Sometimes a water softener, may cause the production of
hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is corrosive to iron, steel,
copper and brass. It can be toxic, however, the real problem is
that the water may have coliform bacteria.

  • Who should test for hydrogen sulfide?
  • Any home that uses water softeners.

#11: Lead (heavy metal).
Since lead is colorless and tasteless when dissolved, you must
test to detect lead in your water. If water isn't pH balanced, it
can cause lead and otehr heavy metals to leach from the
plumbing. Lead causes developmental harm, neurological
damage, and kidney damage. Mental retardation, blindness,
comas and even death are possible.

Lead can affect a baby's pre-natal development in the womb if
consumed by the pregnant mother. Lead poisoning is also
dangerous for adults, too causing headaches, mood changes,
sleep disturbances, drop in fertility for men, high blood pressure,
digestive problems, nerve disorders, joint and muscle pain.

The first water you draw from the faucet in the morning contains
the highest levels of lead if you have it, so it's always wise to let
the water run for two or three minutes before using it for drinking
water or for preparing food.

When water stands for several hours or more in water systems
containing lead, the lead may dissolve into your drinking water.
This is true especially if you have acidic water (low pH).

  • Who should test water for lead?
  • Anyone who is pregnant, nursing or who has young kids in
    the household. Children under the age of 7 are most
    susceptible to lead poisoning, because their developing
  • Anyone who has a home constructed before 1978. If
    you're buying an old house, naturally you may question the
    safety of the pipes. An old house presents problems because
    pipes may contain lead. If you have lead pipes and the
    municipal water is corrosive, the water will leach into the
    lead and carry it back through your faucet.
  • Homes with water stains that are purple/black. Dark
    water stains could indicate manganese or lead.

#12: Iron bacteria.
If your water doesn't taste right, it may be loaded with  
something called iron bacteria. Iron bacteria in the water feed on
iron and produce deposits of iron and brown slime. This results in
swampy, oily and musty smells.

Iron is the fourth most abundant mineral, yet it causes problems
in water. Iron in the water can cause rust and stain laundry and
plumbing fixtures. Even low levels can cause reddish brown
stains. A solution is to treat it with sediment water filters, carbon
filters or a water softener, but it causes the system to plug up,
so adding sodium hypochlorite followed by filtration is often the

#13: Mercury.
Mercury in the water could render it virtually useless. It
accumulates in watersheds. Mercury in water has the potential to
cause kidney damage! Acidic water will have mercury.

  • Who should test for mercury in water?
  • Everyone, but particularly women who are pregnant or who
    will become pregnant.

Note: When testing water for mercury, you may receive
interference from known oxidizers such as chlorine, so if you're
testing specifically for mercury then pre-filter your water though a
carbon filter first.

#14: Mold (Rhizopus stolonifer).
Mold is a kind of fungus that feeds on moisture, so naturally mold
and water go hand in hand. Mold grows anywhere it's damp or
where there is decaying matter.

Varied algal blooms in the reservoirs or rivers could cause a
musty taste in your water.

  • Who should test for mold in water?

#15: Nitrates  and nitrites.
Nitrates and nitrites are contaminants that can cause Baby Blue  
Syndrome*" and are usually the result of contamination by
fertilizers, or human or animal waste in the water.

While nitrogen (nitrate, nitrite, or ammonium) is a nutrient
needed for plant growth, it's not good for humans to drink.
Nitrate can get into water directly as the result of runoff of

The presence of nitrates and nitrites in small quantities doesn't
have much of an effect on aquatic life, but too much of it is not a
good thing.  Too much nitrates in the environment can make it
difficult for insects and fish to survive.

First Alert can test for nitrates and nitrites come from fertilizers
and animal waste and they cause developmental problems.

  • Who should test for nitrates and nitrites?
  • Anyone with a baby in the household.

#16: Nitrogen.
Having nitrogen in the water is not good with little ones around.
Infants can acquire methomoglobinenmia (blue baby syndrome).*

    * If you have a baby in the household beware of Baby Blue Syndrome:
    This illness begins when baby ingests large amounts of nitrates in water
    and it converts to nitrite by the digestive system.

#17: Parasites.
Preppers are often prepared for parasites in terms of bugging out,
but they don't often think it happens in the municipal water
supply, but it happens more often than you would think.

  • Amoeba (Naegleria Fowleri) ~  An amoeba that's a
    parasite? It's odd to think that a brain-eating amoeba could
    be lurking in your tap water, but it happens. Naegleria
    Fowleri, a single-celled organism, is sometimes found in
    untreated municipal water supplies and well water. An
    emerging drinking water pathogen, this brain-eating amoeba
    hides in water heaters, sink drains and shower-heads. An
    ordinary test kit won't be able to help identify the brain
    eating amoeba in your tap water. You'll need a lab to test
    for Naegleria Fowleri. Water filters can remove chemicals,
    larger particles and sediment, but not Naegleria Fowleri.
    Chlorination is required to remove Naegleria Fowleri from
    your tap water. Of course heavy chlorination is also a
    problem in drinking water.

  • Giardia ~ Giardia is a parasite.
  • Taxoplasma

Microscopic invertibrates.
You never know what's swimming in your drinking water:
  • copepods ~
  • rotifers ~

  • Who should test for parasites in water?
  • Anyone with a private well.

#18: Pesticides.
Pesticides show up in drinking water from local agricultural uses,
as well as from gardens and lawns. The health risks depend
entirely on how toxic the substances are, and how much is in the

#19: Plutonium.
Plutonium is a radiological contaminant, which you may find in our
tap water.

#20: Radon.
Radon is a radioactive gas (chemical element number 86) that's
colorless and odorless and produced from a natural breakdown of
uranium in soil, rock and water. Radon causes lung cancer and
while there is
hope for people who have lung cancer, it's
important to test the water for radon.

People who swallow water with high radon levels may suffer lung
damage and cancer. Radon poisoning is a leading cause of lung
cancer! (And you thought it was smoking.) Of course, you can also
breathe in radon.

Radon could be lurking in your well water or tap water.
Radon can cause lung cancer! Radon is a known cancer-causing
agent that leaches from soil into groundwater, not typically found
in a surface water source.

Learn more about
Radon in your from the Environmental
Protection Agency. The good news is that you can fix the problem
of Radon through venting techniques. For water with radon, the
Seychelle water filtration is remarkable against radiological
contaminants. It is the only product on the market that provides
up to 100% reduction of known radiological contaminants.

  • Who should test for radon?
  • Well water is particularly susceptible..
  • Anyone who has lung cancer.
  • Test your water for radon every three-to-five years.

NOTE: you can
filter water from radon with a radiological filter.,
like the one pictured right from

#21: Sodium chloride.
A naturally occurring element and beneficial, chloride may be
artificially produced and toxic. If you live near snowy roads or if
road salting storage facilities are near, then your water is
especially at risk for high levels of sodium chloride.

#22: Sulfates and Surfates
Sulfates may give your water a bitter of medicinal taste if you get
more than 250 ml. Worse, it may corrode plumbing, such as
copper. Surfates are different from sulfates. Surfates occur
naturally in groundwater. People unaccustomed to drinking water
with elevated levels of sulfate can experience diarrhea and

  • Who should test for sulfates and surfates?
  • Homes with copper pipes in particular should test for both
    sulfates and copper.

#23: Uranium.
Uranium contaminates water in the West (California). It's an
unexpected byproduct of irrigation, drought, and overpumping
underground water reserves.

#24: Volatile Organic compounds (VOCs).
Volitile Organic Compounds in the water may include:
  • fumigants
  • gasoline hydrocarbons
  • gasoline oxygenates
  • organic synthesis compounds
  • refrigerants
  • solvents, and
  • trihalomethan

#25: Viruses.
It's shocking that viruses actually make it through to the
municipal water supply and well water.

  • norovirus ~

  • rotavirus ~

  • Hepatitis A ~ Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease
    caused by a virus and there are some things you can do as a
    prepper about Hepatitis A. It's important to know that comes
    into your drinking water through sewage overflows, or
    polluted storm water runoff. Wells may become
    contaminated after flooding.

If you distrust your water source for any reason, or if you just
want reassurance that your water is safe, then test your water!

  • Tip: Don't plant anything but grass near your septic system
    because roots or shrubs may clog and damage the drainlines.
    Also, grass can help prevent erosion and remove excess
    water from around the tank.

Who knew that there would be so many contaminants
in tap water?
Everyone deserves safe, clean drinking water, and it's your right
to test the water. Labs can charge a hefty price of $100-$300,but
with an inexpensive kit, you can test water at home t find out
almost instantly whether your water has arsenic, lead, mercury,
coliforum bacteria, radon or pesticides in it.

  • NOTE: When testing your water, it's best to test at the
    source: your faucet, so you can see the full effect of the
    water source and how it travels to your cup or pot. Some
    water is highly corrosive and will cause old lead pipes to
    leach lead, as with what happened in the Flint, Michigan
    municipal water crisis.
Why test your water...

Water doesn't smell right:
If your water just doesn't seem right, and has an odor, like rotten
eggs, then you'll want to test it. A rotten egg odor could be
hydrogen sulfide, which is corrosive to iron, steel, copper and
brass. It can be toxic, however, the real problem is that the water
may have coliform bacteria.

Water doesn't look right:
Water that appears cloudy or milky white may not be unsafe.
Likely there's a hole in your pipe that's sucking in air and the
cloudiness is simply tiny bubbles of oxygen. Basically, your pipes
are under a bit of pressure.

Try first getting a glass of water and letting it stand. The bubbles should eventually
dissipate. If it doesn't you have a problem on your hands.

  • Slime: Slime or biofilm in your water isn't a good thing. You'll
    find water naturally has bacteria and fungi present and they
    attach to damp surfaces and may multiply. These growths
    are biofilm and most are not harmful, however they may give
    your water a musty flavor when they form around taps and
    on pipes.

  • Staining: Bacteria and fungi may multiply and cause staining:
  • Green/blue - copper
  • Purple/black - manganese, lead
  • Brown/rusty - iron
  • White/brown - calcium carbonate

Water doesn't taste right:
If your water doesn't taste right, it may be loaded with mold,
sulfates, high mineral content or iron bacteria.

You can't always trust officials about your water.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) watches over water in
four main areas of the municipal water supply:
  1. Biological or microbial contaminants: bacteria, viruses,
    protozoan, and parasites.
  2. Chemical contaminants:  nitrogen, bleach, salts, pesticides,
    metals, toxins produced by bacteria, and human or animal
  3. Physical contaminants sediment or organic material
    suspended in the water of lakes, rivers and streams from soil
  4. Radiological contaminants: cesium, plutonium and uranium.

More to know about water quality...
Did you know that some water filtration systems do not protect
users against disease-causing bacteria, viruses, or germs? If you
suspect viruses or smaller bacteria then you'll need to use water
purifier tablets.

There's more to know. Water purified at the source can be re-
infected by the container you use for transport. Potable Aqua
tablets, when used as directed, help protect against
recontamination in the container so your water remains safe to
drink at the point of use.

Happy endings...
The more you know about your water, the better you are at
protecting your family. Testing provides peace of mind. What'e
more, testing your water today will give you a base line to know
that something is askew in later years.

Preppers who live in homes with old piping systems should test
their water, as well as preppers who rely on municipal areas
where the plumbing systems may be contaminated.

Your State Department of Health is a valuable source of
information. For help in locating these agencies or for info on
drinking water in general call the EPA's Safe Drinking Water
Hotline at  800.426.4791.

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